US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is making the first visit by a top member of the Biden administration to Delhi, as part of efforts to forge an alliance of countries seeking to push back against China’s assertiveness in the region.
The leaders of the United States, India, Australia and Japan – countries together known as the Quad – held a first summit last week pledging to work together for a free and open Indo-Pacific and to cooperate on maritime and cyber security in the face of challenges from China. The discussions between the American Defence Secretary and the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval would be the first major interaction between the two sides during the visit. The American Defence Secretary is also expected to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. He is expected to meet the External Affairs Minister in the second half on Saturday. Mr Austin is visiting India from March 19 to 21 and is scheduled to meet the top political and military leadership of the country.
India drew closer to the United States following its own tensions with China on their disputed Himalayan border, where deadly clashes erupted last year. Washington has helped New Delhi, leasing surveillance drones and supplying cold-weather gear for Indian troops.